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Cheese Afuega el Pitu

A historical cheese

A historical cheese

Of somewhat indeterminate origin, it is known that the Afuega el Pitu cheese is one of the oldest cheeses in Spain and the oldest in the Principality. In the eighteenth century it was already used as a tax payment currency. It was prepared in all the farmhouses that owned cattle, by the simple procedure of the instant setting of the milk.

The XXXVI Contest of the Quesu d'Afuega'l Pitu is celebrated the 20 of January of 2018 in the Foz de Morcín.

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Since the year 2004 enjoys the Protected Designation of Origin.

This cheese is unique in its semantics, It is named in Asturian and does not support an exact translation or a clear etymology. Literally it would mean "drown the chicken". It could be defined as a primitive "de puñu" cheese whose name promotes different senses. Some people understand that alludes to the strangulation of the neck of the bag where it goes (fardela). Others prefer to refer to the difficulties that it offers to be ingested, to the peculiarity that has to stick to the palate and the pharynx (pitu in Asturian colloquial) during its tasting. In this case, the gullet got stuck when consumed very cured due to the high fat content. Finally, there are those who maintain that traditionally it has been used as food in the raising of village chicken (pitu), or more precisely: it was given to the chicken to taste it, and if it cost him to swallow it then the cheese was fine fact.

XXXIX Quesu d'Afuega'l Pitu Contest

Another particularity of this cheese is that the coagulation of milk is eminently acidic. In its final appearance it presents a blind cut, of white-yellowish bark, or orange if paprika is used, and granular texture. The flavor is creamy, unctuous and strong, tending to acid, with a very particular aroma that makes this dairy derivative one of the most charismatic of Asturias. Its weight oscillates between the 200 and 600 grams and we can taste it fresh, semi-cured or cured.

It is made mainly with pasteurized Friesian cow milk, and its production area covers the central-western area of ​​Asturias. After the Denomination of Origin, the elaboration is restricted to 13 municipalities. It occurs all year round, mainly in winter and spring.

Depending on the area, the definitive shape of the cheese varies. We will find cheeses of truncated cone shape in Grado, Pravia or Cornellana. In these "Atroncaos", the curd is passed to molds of a truncated cone shape (called barreñas) in small portions. The cheeses are removed from the mold the next day, salted and either sold fresh, or passed to ripening chambers where they remain from 15 to 30 days and in which the temperature and humidity are controlled so that the cheese goes healing slowly and can develop the characteristic aromas. Those that have a final form of zucchini are more typical of Riosa or Morcín. In the latter case the curd is introduced into a cloth of the appropriate size or "trapu", a bag is formed, drained and hung so that it is slowly deweying at the same time that the lactic fermentation continues. In the variety Red of this cheese, before introducing it in the rags or in the molds, according to the case, it is conveniently kneaded with sweet and spicy paprika in proportions to the taste of the maker, at the same time that it is salted.

From 1981, it has been celebrated in the municipality of Morcín Afuega el Pitu Cheese Contest, to which all the processors of the zone go. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after January's 17.

It is sold throughout the Spanish territory and for some years in the United States, Mexico, Germany, Holland or Japan. Of the ten industrial dairies, six of which were formed after granting the designation of origin in 2004, it is generated an approximate annual production of 220.000 kilos.

Today, more than 40 varieties of cheese are made, some of the best known and most popular ones we present to you, if you want to discover more about the cheeses of Asturias.

Text: © Ramón Molleda for desdeasturias.com

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